Photo Credit: COURTESY OF THE PORTLAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE - Downtown Portland statues were 'yarn bombed' Thursday, Nov. 13, to kick off the city's pop-up shop program, and signal the start of the holiday event season.Ugly sweaters, yarn-bombed statues, gospel choirs, free parking, pop-up shops and caroling contests — those are a few of Mayor Charlie Hales' favorite things, for the holidays at least.

Dressed in festive "ugly sweaters" to mark the theme of this year's holiday campaign, Hales joined other city and downtown business leaders in Pioneer Courthouse Square Thursday to announce this year's promotions.

A few are the same as in past years; others are new.

All are designed to attract people downtown and get people into the holiday spirit.

“During the holidays, downtown Portland is the place to be,” Hales said Thursday, Nov. 13. “It’s our unique combination of cultural attractions, restaurants and mix of local and national stores that draws people to the city. A temporary art installation, featuring this year’s holiday sweater theme, will top off a truly memorable experience.”

More than a dozen statues between Fifth and Broadway, along Yamhill and Morrison will be "yarn-bombed" in coming weeks by local fiber artists. To start, the “Allow Me” statue at Pioneer Courthouse Square and several of the “Animals in Pools” along Yamhill and Morrison streets were outfitted with holiday sweaters. Look for wardrobe changes on Thursdays.

Thirty new retailers and restaurants opened downtown this year. Visitors are encouraged to sport their holiday wear while shopping, and sample seasonal items at local bars and restaurants.

Three holiday pop-up shops will open in one building in Old Town this year, returning a tradition that had been on hiatus last year, they announced from Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Those shops will locate in the 11 N. W. Fifth Ave. space, just off West Burnside.

The stores are Field Notes/Draplin Design Co., which sells Northwest-specific gift items including Field Notes memo books; North St. Bags, which makes travel packs for cyclists; and Omiyage, an Asian-inspired gift and craft store sponsored by the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.

Starting Nov. 13, the shops are open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. They'll end their season on Dec. 24.

Permanent roots

The pop-up shop tradition began in 2010, when then-Mayor Sam Adams launched an initiative to draw shoppers to the little-explored blocks around the Galleria mall.

He found a few small entrepreneurs who were selling locally made goods but couldn’t or didn’t necessarily want to open a brick-and-mortar shop.

The Portland Business Alliance and other groups provided small grants to help get them set up in temporary shops in vacant storefronts for the holiday season.

Building owners gave the shops practically free rent, and the PBA made “shop local downtown” their new mantra.

During the four years, there were 14 pop-up shops, three of which — Crafty Wonderland, Boys Fort, and Bridge and Burn — have put down permanent roots.

Eleven of the 13 spaces the pop-ups had occupied have been leased.

Last year, downtown vacancy rates dropped and there was no space for the pop-ups, so they took a hiatus.

Partners in the pop-ups include Portland Business Alliance and the Clean & Safe District, Portland Development Commission, Downtown Retail Advocate, Downtown Marketing Initiative and Travel Portland, and Beardsley Building Management.

Clothing donations

Statues aren't the only thing getting clothed this year. Downtown businesses have partnered with Transition Projects, Inc., to collect warm clothing for homeless people transitioning into housing.

The nonprofit Transition Projects provides clothing, food and other services to about 9,000 people each year.

Donate new or gently used winter clothing by the end of the year at five locations: the Pioneer Place customer service kiosk, lower level near the Gap; Boys Fort, 902 S.W. Morrison St.; PDX Pop Up Shops, 11 N.W. Fifth Ave.; Travel Portland Visitor Information at Pioneer Courthouse Square; and Gigi Salon, 803 S.W. Morrison St.

Besides shopping and eating, Pioneer Courthouse Square — which turns 30 this year — will host several holiday events, starting with the Stimson Lumber Tree Arrival on Nov. 14.

The 30th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, featuring Thomas Lauderdale with members of Pink Martini, is set for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 28. “Oregon’s Own,” 234th Army Band and the Northwest Community Gospel Choir will also perform.

The events continue next month with The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12.

All ages are welcome; prizes will be awarded to the top caroling groups.

The 24th annual Tuba Christmas Concert is set for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 13, featuring 250 tubas playing a medley of seasonal songs in unison. All events are free.

Parking downtown is also free on three Sundays next month: Dec. 7, 14 and 21, between noon and 5 p.m.

Shoppers may show their parking ticket at the customer service kiosk in Pioneer Place (lower level near Gap) or at Boys Fort (902 S.W. Morrison St.). Eligible drivers will receive a $5 parking voucher to cover the day’s cost of parking.

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On Twitter @jenmomanderson.

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